The Christmas season is a season that is typically full of joy and excitement. From an early age we are trained to look forward to Christmas with all of its cultural trappings. Family get togethers, big extravagant meals, the excitement of gift giving and receiving, holiday movies on the Hallmark channel, the beauty of Christmas lights, Christmas concerts, parades, company Christmas parties; this time of year, really is just like one gigantic nationwide festival.
And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying all of the things I just listed above, it’s easy to forget (even for Christians who celebrate the birth of Christ during this season), it’s easy to forget what it must have been like when Jesus was born and the purpose of Jesus’ birth.
Jesus was born into a terrifying season in Israel’s history: Israel was living under a foreign Roman occupation (Lk. 2:1 – 2); a vicious child murdering king was ruling over the Jews (Matt. 2:7 – 18); and Israel’s spiritual leaders were divided and corrupt (Mk. 7:1 – 13; 8:14 – 21; 12:13 – 27; Lk. 9:7 – 9; 11:37 – 54; 12:1 – 3; 20; Jn. 2:13 – 22; 7:40 – 52; 8). So, Jesus wasn’t necessarily born into a festive time.
The reason that Jesus was born can easily be misunderstood as well (even by well-meaning Christians who are oftentimes more influenced by our American culture than they are by the biblical record). Even the disciples had a hard time getting it right when it comes to the purpose of the birth of Jesus.
The disciples thought that Jesus was going to overthrow their oppressors (Acts 1:6); they couldn’t believe that he was going to die (Matt. 16:21 – 23; Lk. 9:43 – 45; 18:31 – 34; Jn. 12:12 – 50); and when Jesus failed to meet their expectations (of being the triumphant king) when he died on the cross instead of waging war against their physical enemies, they abandoned him and left him to die alone (Matt. 26:47 – 56, 69 – 75; Mk. 14:43 – 52, 66 – 72; Lk. 22:47 – 62; 23:49; Jn. 18:1 – 18, 25 – 27). It’s easy to miss the fact that Jesus was born to die on a cross to crush the power of Satan, Sin and Death.
So, when we celebrate Christmas, what are we really celebrating? Well in Colossians 1:18 – 19 the apostle Paul is celebrating the fact that Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme. But he didn’t come to this earth to reign supreme in the way that some people thought he would reign supreme. Colossians 1:18 – 19 teaches us that Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme over the church because he is the head of the body, the firstborn from the dead and the fullness of God.
Look at Colossians 1:18 – 19…
18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
#1: JESUS CAME TO REIGN SUPREME AS THE HEAD OF THE BODY (VS. 18).
When the apostle Paul tells the Colossians that Jesus “is the head of the body, the church” (vs. 18) he’s simply stating that Jesus is the supreme head or leader of the church family. This is why Jesus told his disciples that he would build his church on the rock of his own crucifixion and resurrection and “the gates of hell would not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). There is no earthly force that will stand against the force of the church that has Jesus as its supreme commander and chief.
Here’s the reality, “the body [of Christ] is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 12:5) which underscores the truth that the church is the body of Christ and the body goes where the head goes because the head controls the body.2
You see, all of God’s blessings in Christ, affect the members of the body just as arms, legs, fingers and toes are affected by the health of the physical head.3 A church with a head wound (a heretical doctrine of Christ) hurts the body so we must root out heresy and false teaching. A church with bad eyesight (a false picture of Jesus) hinders the body so we must ask the Spirit for spiritual illumination and eyes to see. A church with bad hearing (ears that are attracted to false pop-cultural teaching) can limit the body so we must listen to the words of the Father.
What the mind thinks, what the eyes see and what the ears hear, all affect the health of the head which in turn affects the health, growth and ability of the body. Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme as the head of the body, the church. The question is: do we think about the biblical Christ? Do we seek a more biblical vision of Christ? Do we listen to the pure words of Christ? Anything short of thinking, seeing and hearing from the real Jesus makes a false Jesus our supreme head. This is why we must remember that Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme as the head of the body, the church!
#2: JESUS CAME TO REIGN SUPREME AS THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD (VS. 18).
When the apostle Paul tells the Colossians that Jesus “is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (vs. 18) he’s simply stating that Jesus came to reign supreme as the firstborn from among the dead. Jesus is the firstborn in resurrection unto glorification therefore he is preeminent, or he has first place in everything.4
Jesus is the first to experience the restoration of resurrection, therefore true eternal restoration begins and ends in, with and for him; and because of this truth we have no reason to fear Satan, Sin or Death.5 The fact that Jesus rose from the dead three days after dying on a cross reminds us that he is the supreme commander, the first without equal and the incomparable victorious King of kings and Lord of lords.
The resurrection is the central truth of Christianity because without the empty tomb, our hope is absolutely useless, because our Savior would be dead. This is exactly what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 and apart from the message of Christ crucified, risen and returning in glory to restore all things to their rightful order, we have no hope. There is no hope outside of the crucified, risen and returning Christ.
If Jesus merely faked his death or had a twin brother step in at the last moment or only rose from the grave to some weird spiritual ghost like form from heaven, then we are above all people are the most to be pitied and all of our Christmas celebrations might as well be nothing more than a cultural festival which sadly is what many quote un quote Christian homes look like in our quote un quote Christian nation during the Christmas season.
This is why Paul says that Jesus “is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (vs. 18); Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme as the firstborn from the dead so that we might live in freedom from the power of Satan, Sin and Death as we look forward to perfect restoration in eternity. Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme as the firstborn from among the dead!
#3: JESUS CAME TO REIGN SUPREME AS THE FULLNESS OF GOD (VS. 19).
When the apostle Paul tells the Colossians that in Christ “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (vs. 19) he’s simply stating that Jesus is in fact, God in the flesh; he’s not some strange manifestation or imitation of God (like imitation powdered milk) he’s the real deal; the authentic God who became flesh and dwelt among us. God became a real flesh and blood human being so that every other human that had been created by the Word who is Christ, could come near to God and become God’s children by grace through faith in Christ according to the Scriptures to the glory of the Father.
This truth, that the fullness of God is found in Christ Jesus (Col. 2:9), teaches us that we need to look no further than Christ to see God in all of his fullness.6 It would seriously be of no benefit to us to know God without knowing him through Jesus.7 This is why I am fond of asking people what Jesus has been saying to them lately.
This is why Jesus told Philip (before the crucifixion) that to see Christ is to see God and he also told Thomas (after the resurrection) that it is a blessing to believe in God without seeing him even as Thomas looked at and felt God in the flesh; this reminds us that just as the sun’s rays are a direct extension of the sun itself, so to, Jesus is the direct extension of God himself in the flesh.8
Just when you start looking at all of the craziness in the world around us, and you begin to wonder if God is even paying attention to all of the evil things that are taking place right now. You have to stop and remember that everything we experience in this broken world, every ugly thing that shocks us and causes us grief, every horrible atrocity we see in the world right now, is meant to point us to Jesus who reigns supreme as the fullness of God.
God took on flesh in the person and the work of Jesus Christ and he walked among us and he experienced the horror of the cross and he knows your grief and he knows your pain and he knows your fear and he knows your frustration. God became a human in the person of Christ so that you could be reconciled to him through his work at the cross and the empty tomb. This is why His Word teaches us that Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme as the fullness of God!
In conclusion, we have learned that Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme over the church because he is the head of the body, he is the firstborn from the dead and he is the fullness of God in the flesh.
While this Christmas season may be full of joy and beauty and celebration, I know that when you and I lay our heads down on our pillows at night, when the celebration is over, when the family members have left, when the all-out family war breaks out, when the consumerism of this national holiday passes, you and I will still face the ugly truth that this world is not all it’s cracked up to be; this world is still broken because each of us are still broken and infected with sin.
The church family will let you down. Death is still churning down the tracks for each of us. Even though we sometimes wish we had the power of God to change the world we live in, the reality is we don’t. The world is still on a collision course with destruction.
But if you’re paying attention here, there’s hope. If you’re seeing what I’m seeing in the text, there’s beauty in the ash heap. If you’re hearing the music that I’m hearing, there’s more than enough reasons to dance and to celebrate the coming of Christ to this earth in the form of a baby in a manger during foreign occupation, amidst the mass murder of babies under the age of two, while most of the religious and political institutions were divided and at war with one another.
There’s hope and beauty and music to celebrate and dance to because Jesus came to this earth to reign supreme over the church as the head of the body and the firstborn from among the dead as the fullness of God in the flesh. When you look up from the foot of the bloody cross and you look through the doorway of the empty tomb and turn your eyes to the hope of the promise of the restoration of heaven, you find the only One who reigns supreme as the Commander and Chief who gave his life to save his enemies and left the grave empty signifying his victory over Satan, Sin and Death and has promised to restore everything when he returns as the reigning King of kings and Lord of lords.
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and the Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, ESV Edition, 2013), 233.
3 Graham Tomlin, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: Philippians, Colossians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 156.
4 R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and the Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, ESV Edition, 2013), 234.
5 Graham Tomlin, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: Philippians, Colossians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 155 – 156.
6 R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and the Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, ESV Edition, 2013), 238.
7 Graham Tomlin, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: Philippians, Colossians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 152.
8 Ibid., 157.